Local News for Sunday, December 23

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Published on December 23 2012 6:07 am
Last Updated on July 14 2013 12:07 pm
Written by Greg Sapp

Governor Quinn said keeping kids safe while they're in school is a top priority.  He's ordered the State Police and State Board of Education to work with local school districts to review their emergency response plans and make improvements where needed.  The goal is to make sure the plans can be executed in a timely and efficient manner.  Both public and private schools in Illinois are required to do an emergency drill at least once a year, but Quinn said the State must make every effort to keep students safe.

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The Illinois State Bar Association is backing two significant legislative proposals.  They're supporting the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, which would give gay couples the right to marry in Illinois.  They're also supporting a plan that allows sick people to use marijuana for medical purposes.  Both proposals are likely to come up in the first week of January, during the General Assembly's lame duck session.  The Bar Association has also voted to change the Code of Judicial Conduct.  They want judges to recuse themselves when considering a case from a person or group that contributed to the judges' campaigns.

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About 90,000 people in Illinois will lose their unemployment benefits next week when the federal emergency unemployment program expires.  Anyone who's been on unemployment for more than 25 weeks will be impacted.  The State has posted a list of resources available for those who may need help with food, clothing or shelter.  Check out IDES.Illinois.gov for more details.

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State workers are willing to dig deeper into their own pockets to help fix the State's pension system.  Teachers, firefighters, nurses and police officers say they'll pay up to two percent more per month if the State guarantees it'll make pension payments on time.  They say they've been left out of negotiations on pension reform, which hurts them and could potentially hurt the people they serve.  Union leaders call the most recent pension proposal a devastating assault on the life savings of the state's public servants.  That proposal calls for a cost of living adjustment and cost shift for downstate and suburban schools, plus it increases the retirement age.

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Former White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley is fueling speculation he's running for Illinois governor.  Daley criticized Governor Quinn, saying he should compromise more.  He also says the people of Illinois "hunger for leadership" because the state is in a "fiscal mess".  Daley could challenge Quinn on the Democrat ticket in 2014, saying he's giving it serious thought.

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Just three months after it was granted an extension to meet environmental regulations, a major power supplier is looking to shut itself down in Illinois.  Officials from Ameren Corporation says they're not making enough money in light of the regulations.  The firm says it's considering a plan to simply shut down its energy plants all over Illinois.  Ameren said it would take a two billion dollar charge in the fourth quarter of this year, which is a business hit of almost 300 million dollars.

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Officials in Robinson are looking for a big grant to boost local business.  Robinson wants money from a state TARP grant of about 800 thousand dollars to upgrade a road leading to a Marathon Oil refinery.  About 100 semi trucks use the road daily.  The Marathon Oil Refinery is the single-largest employer in Robinson.

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If you're thinking about getting someone a pet for Christmas, you may want to think again.  Julie Deters, manager at Coles County Animal Shelter and Rescue, warns against the idea.  She says first, you want to make sure the person actually wants a new pet.  If they do, Deters said the new owner should be the person who chooses the pet, otherwise it may not be the right one for them.  If that's the case, Deters said the animal could end up back in the shelter.  She says pet adoptions do go up during the holidays, especially for kittens and cats.

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The Illinois Department of Transportation and several law enforcement agencies remind drivers the stepped up enforcement campaign called "Drive to Survive" is still in effect.  IDOT said the campaign will be even more visible for the next two weeks with hundreds of roadside safety checks, seat belt enforcement zones and patrols targeting impaired drivers.

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Santa Claus will still be in town today and tomorrow before heading back to the North Pole to start that long trip Monday night.

Santa will be in his house on the lawn of the old Courthouse downtown today from 1 to 4pm and on Monday from 1 to 3pm.

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Several churches have shared their plans for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day worship.

Watson United Methodist Church at the intersection of Routes 37 and 45 will have a Christmas Eve service at 6pm Monday.

Centenary United Methodist Church at 3rd and Grove in Effingham will have Christmas Eve services on Monday at both 7pm and 11pm. 

Sacred Heart Catholic Church at Fayette and Henrietta in Effingham will have Mass on Christmas Eve Monday at 4pm and 11pm and on Christmas Day Tuesday at 9:30am.

An old-fashioned candlelight Christmas Eve service will be held at 6:30pm Monday in the Blue Point Baptist Church along Moccasin Road at Blue Point Trail near Lake Sara.  Pastor Robert Tucker said the service in the 150-year-old picturesque church will feature traditional carol singing, special music and the reading of the Christmas story.

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A temporary restraining order that prevented Governor Quinn from closing prisons has been dissolved.  That means Quinn can move forward with his plan to close Tamms and Dwight prisons.  Quinn said the shutting the facilities down will help get the state's budget under control, but union leaders say moving inmates into other facilities will add to the problem of overcrowding and put staff in danger.